The Chinese ambassador to South Korea congratulated South Korean short-track speed skater Hwang Dae-heon for winning an Olympic gold medal just days after South Korea accused officials of favoring Chinese skaters.
In a statement delivered through his spokesperson on Thursday, Ambassador Xing Haiming said, “With regard to the athlete Hwang Dae-heon’s performance, Chinese people are also positively evaluating it in show of the true friendship of the two countries’ people,” reported Korea Herald.
Hwang won South Korea’s first gold at the Beijing Winter Games in the men’s 1,500-meter event on Wednesday, narrowly beating Canada’s Steven Dubois just by 0.035 seconds.
Prior to Hwang’s win, Ambassador Xing’s office had posted a social media statement expressing “grave concern” over earlier accusations from South Korea that referees were favoring the Chinese team.
The claims of biased officiating arose after Hwang was disqualified along with fellow Team South Korea athlete Lee June-seo in a separate event on Monday.
The South Korean skaters were competing at the semi-finals of the men’s short track 1000-meter race when Lee was kicked from the game for illegally changing lanes, while Hwang was removed for illegally passing late. The Chinese team won the event and qualified for the finals.
In a press conference earlier in the week, the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) had accused the referees of being “biased and not transparent.”
KSOC vowed to do its best to ensure that Korean athletes would not be treated “so unfairly” in global events. The committee added that its appeal was motivated in part by public outrage.
The ISU also rejected a protest filed by the Hungarian team after its skater Shaolin Sandor Liu was disqualified in the final of the men’s 1,000-meter event for “causing contact” and an “arm block,” according to the New York Times.